By now, you’ve probably heard about the horrible killings in Alabama alledgedly conducted by neuroscientist Amy Bishop against members of her biology department. The word “alleged” seems to be generous, since there generally is not much mystery in these kind of workplace shootings, and some of her victims survived.
It turns out she also killed her brother when she was a teen, and claimed it was an accident. She is also now suspected of sending a mail bomb to a Harvard professor.
I don’t know what her religious views were, but my right-wing evangelical friend Wintery Knight links to a web page that lists scientists who consult with liberal clergy who support evolution. As of today, Bishop is listed among the Alabama scientists who help clergy understand evolution.
What to make of this? Bishop is certainly mentally disturbed, though she also appears to have been in control of her behavior most of the time sufficient to graduate from Harvard (led Ted Kaczynski, she probably does not meet the legal definition of insanity).
While I don’t know what Bishop’s exact beliefs are, and she may be a religious liberal rather than an nonbeliever, I think its fair to say she appears to be a rogue member of our side of the secular vs. religion divide. I think it’s important to acknowledge this, because when religious fundamentalists set off bombs or gun down opponents, it’s very easy to blame the religion for inspiring them, and this example should caution us that sometimes the violence is driven by personal issues.
If this gets politicized, we should not that Bishop’s targets were not creationists, but in fact people with whom she was probably in intellectual agreement, and her motives were personal revenge. There is certainly nothing in neuroscience to inspire people to attack others.
But no one is perfect, and some people are vastly imperfect, and the imperfect people show up on all sides of any debate.